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Mar 30, 2021
Over the last few years, I have had the privilege of seeing hundreds of student paintings. I put together a list of the most common issues and areas for improvement in terms of composition. You might find it helpful for your own paintings. Keep in mind, a mistake in one painting might be a success in another. Composition is tricky like that. So, treat these as gentle suggestions rather than strict rules.
Your focal point is the key feature or idea of your painting. It should be in a prominent spot, not on the edges.
It can look unnatural if the tallest tree in your landscape aligns with the peak of the distant mountain.
Don’t try to paint every color, value, texture, highlight, or shadow. Simplify. You’ll end up with a more cohesive painting.
It’s hard to make a composition work if it doesn’t start with some kind of spark or idea.
Not a big issue, but you should usually give dominance to the sky or land.
Straight lines are rigid and tight. Embrace curves. As Steve Huston wrote in his Figure Drawing for Artists (page 38): "The world is full of watery design lines. Just look around."
If you’re going to exaggerate any elements in your painting, it’s better to push in the direction of your big idea. It’s better to make your vivid sunset a bit warmer. It’s better to make your rigid cityscape a bit straighter. It’s better to make your stormy seascape a bit darker and the waves a bit larger.
If something doesn’t add to the composition, does it need to be there?
Lines are powerful. Our eyes like to follow them. Careful not to lead people out of your painting.
Your goal is to create a beautiful painting, not a collection of beautifully-painted parts. Focus on the big picture and never lose sight of it.
Look for opportunities to convey your ideas. Grass can be used to convey direction and movement. Hair can be used to frame the face. Highlights can be used to reiterate key structures. Always think about each part's role in the bigger picture.
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Show Us Your Best!
through June 30th
Open House with two solo artists, Andy Pereira and Rosanne Williams + 25 additional artists in the main gallery.
All mediums & all styles
June 11th, starts 5pm - 7pm
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